Leaving What is Safe and Familiar to Walk on the Rewild Side of Life

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A recent British survey stated that almost half of those over the age of fourteen either had no career advice, very poor advice, or limited advice. It appears that our culture isn’t too concerned about helping us find highly engaging careers, despite the fact that we spend more of our time working than in any other activity.

After Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism career guidance was not even a consideration. Instead, professionals advised her parents to institutionalise her. Gifted with a strong mother who guided and encouraged Temple, she discovered her place in the world as a livestock-handling equipment designer. Not only did she find her niche and individual expression, she branched out from the divergent fields of animal science and autism education to also become a professor and author.

Each of us has the same potential to find work that uniquely fits us and delivers a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction and joy. The fact that such a small proportion of people feel engaged and enlivened by their work suggests that finding our sense of fit doesn’t come very easily.

The first challenge we face today is the paradox of choice. Rather than being thrilled by the vast amount of jobs and work options available today, we paradoxically become paralysed by it. It is less daunting to choose from the traditional array of professions (doctor/lawyer/accountant) than it is to take the path of Temple and spend years honing in on your niche.

A second challenge is our tendency to play it safe in life. And so most of us settle into a velvet rut whereby we become resigned to a lack of fulfillment in our work, just as long as we have enough consolations from the income it affords us. As the philosopher Rousseau pointed out in the opening sentence of The Social Contract: “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.”

Lastly, there is a dearth of elders or mentors who have followed their authentic path in life and can guide the next generation. When ancient cultures followed the principle that it takes a village to raise a child, members of a tribe would notice different facets or latent gifts within its young people. One downfall of our individualist society is that many languish when it comes to finding how to best match who they are with suitable work. Temple Grandin wasn’t merely fortunate in being able to find her fit; she had the continuous guidance of her mother, teachers and other allies, to complement her innate determination and willingness to try things.

In having navigated each of these challenges and many others, I  well placed to help others discover their work related alignment and sense of integration. When what you do leaves you disconnected and depleted, you’re vocationally out of sync. There is no better time to start defragmenting your life and heeding Buckminster Fullers insight:

“The minute you begin to do what you really want to do it’s really a different kind of life.”

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